Vietnamese artist Dao Minh Tri has his hair but by fellow artist Kim Chi Nguyen Thi on a fly by visit to his house. Kim Chi is an unusual artist in her own right, painting large, fervently applied figures on canvas and she speak with informal respect to Dao Minh who is a veteran artist both in Vietnam and internationally.
Dao Minh Tri, born 1950 on the other hand is one of Vietnam’s best known artists, after a long career travelling all over the world to study and teach, he was to set up the Ho Chi Minh Biennial, until he had a serious heart attack which left him unable to paint easily. While on the mend we visited his house with Zen Collection, aside from playing every instrument in the house, the four of us went up three four story arts-space-cum-family home and visited the works of Dao Minh Tri and his wife, both mostly doing lacquer on wood and his two sons, one of whom paints on canvas in his spare time the other, Dao Duy Tung who works with digital arts. Lacquer is a naturally occurring substance in Vietnam, the sap of the lacquer tree used to varnish wood or other materials, and one can see works about the US-Vietnam war in the Ho Chi Minh art museum in the same medium. Due to difficulty with language and Dao Minh’s condition, and his hair cut, we got to know him with a prismatic view of his home, his family and the works on the walls. A lovely man, his lifetime career is rich in its span and impressive in its reach. Most of all though, the knowing in his work is playful, but confident. Here Buddhism, humanism and animism come into play in the form of nudes, ancient figures and fish.
Dao Minh Tri graduated from the Hanoi University of Fine Arts in 1976 and moved to the South of Vietnam when he was a lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Fine Arts. He retired in 1993 and became Chairman of the Fine Art Association of HCMC. Dao Minh Tri’s work has been exhibited all over the world and is collected by galleries or private collectors on all continents.
Quote from the Artist:
“Since my childhood I have remembered the painting that hung in my own home and so many other Vietnamese households of “a carp looking at the moon”. For me, the fish is a symbol of happiness, not only here in Vietnam. In other various Asian countries fish is also symbolic of prosperity.
Perhaps in viewing my paintings, you will feel this or some other definition entirely. For me a fish is similar to man, ripe with myriad meaning”.